Who Shouldn’t Supplement Vitamin A for Skin and Why

I’d like to begin with an interesting fact:

The Eskimos learned the hard way that although the polar bear was a good source of nutrition for its peoples, its liver was NOT to be eaten.  Why? It contains a toxic dose of vitamin A. How much is that?  A polar bear’s liver has been measured to contain more than 1,000,000 i.u. of retinol!

So, assuming you don’t have access to polar bear meat or organs, here are four types of people who should NOT take supplemental retinol:

  1. If you are a pregnant female, or wish to become pregnant, you are wise to avoid any supplementation of pre-formed vitamin A (i.e., retinol) beyond a standard multi-vitamin. Sticking  to a dose of less than 2,600 i.u. retinol per day is a is a safer bet.  But the safest bet here is a multivitamin that lists all its vitamin A as “mixed carotenoids”.  These are vegetable-sourced. water-soluble and safe.

2. If you are on Accutane (isotretinoin), you are already ingesting very, very high amounts of a synthetic derivative of vitamin A. Keep in mind that this is because Accutane, or isotretinoin, is taken in doses equivalent to upwards of 100,000 i.u. (international units) per day! Excess vitamin A is drying to mucous membranes, eyes and skin and toxic to the liver. This is why your dermatologist requires you to have liver enzymes tests regularly while you are on Accutane. If you are female, you will asked to use birth control while using this acne drug because it causes severe birth defects to the fetus in utero.

3.  Anyone using prescription medications of ANY kind should speak to their prescribing physician(s) or pharmacist before taking extra amounts of retinol.  Drugs add to the detoxification workload of the liver, so any additional fat-soluble nutrients that are normally stored there can add to the burden on this organ.

4. Anyone with compromised liver function, as diagnosed by their doctor. Those with hepatitis, cirrhosis or fatty liver disease should not use vitamin A. In hepatitis, the liver is inflamed and burdened with an infection so adding to its workload is not recommended. In cirrhosis, the liver is scarred, resulting in fewer functioning liver cells and poor blood flow through the organ. Finally, a fatty liver carries an excess of fat, potentially allowing  for additional storage of this fat-soluble vitamin; however, this is not desirable as it may increase the potential for liver damage.

Good news:  Unless any of the above conditions describe you, it is unlikely that a vitamin A supplement taken as directed on the label will hurt you. Having said this, I’d like to ask that anyone thinking of trying vitamin A for acne control discuss it with their healthcare practitioner before starting.

Still note sure if your skin problems could benefit from extra vitamin A? Check out my Clear Skin Program.

By Andrea

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